My particular case began one day about a week after my first Daily Deviation was given to me by Aeires. Up until that time I was a relatively unknown artist, and was minimally protecting my work with an easily removed watermark. I didn't really think my work was worth stealing, and honestly hadn't thought about what would happen if it was. But that day, in as crazy a way possible, my views on the matter changed drastically.
Happily going about my regularly scheduled dA day, Platinus came into Apophysis chat and informed me that one of my images was on Reno 911, a clip from a tv show in which the fictional police team got a "deputy" by finding people on myspace.com. The image was visible on the myspace user's background that the show was featuring. Figuring it for a bizarre but isolated incident, I asked him to contact the myspace user and ask them to take my art off their background, because I didn't have a myspace account and couldn't contact the user myself. I also sent a quick note to the myspace asking for their help.
Other deviants then informed me of a couple of things I didn't know, namely that a company called Pyzam.com made backgrounds for myspace.com and thats where the myspace user got my art, and that I could use Whois.net to find out Pyzam's important site info so that I could get my art taken down.
By this time, I was pretty worked up emotionally, but I didn't want to flounder around ignorantly and I also knew that I had the moral high ground and would only be able to keep that if I acted professionally. So even though I was angry and hurt, I decided to calmly do research about my options, copyrights, and available recourse and also to document what was going on in my journal. I used my journal to ask for input from others, and to update my friends on what was going on. I wrote to Pyzam.com and their upper companies, GoDaddy.net, DomainsByProxy and thePlanet.com.
The first good thing to happen was the original myspace user removed her background. Several people had contacted her, including fanficbug, who wrote the lady a letter appealing to her kinder nature and her position as a police officer to uphold the law.
The next thing to happen was a prompt response from a director at Pyzam.com, Jason Moore. His letter can be seen in my journal here: dragonwinter.deviantart.com/jo… It was a great disappointment to me, and further enraged me, but I did my best to word my reply in a way that conveyed my strong feelings without becoming unprofessional. I think I did okay but sometimes came across as ranting. My reply is also in that journal.
One thing that did come out of Jason's reply was an opportunity for me to peruse dA's user agreement and policies. He had taken direct quotes from the user agreement out of context and attempted to justify harvesting art from dA and using it in this manner. I was justifiably concerned, but using dA's FAQ and answers from the help desk, I was able to put these concerns at rest. This part of the process I will put here in the article, even though it's also in my journal:
- 16. Copyright in Your Content deviantART does not claim ownership rights in Your Content. For the sole purpose of enabling us to make your Content available through the Service, you grant to deviantART a non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, distribute, re-format, store, prepare derivative works based on, and publicly display and perform Your Content. Please note that when you upload Content, you allow third parties to copy, distribute and display your Content.
Jason Moore used this out of context to say "Actually, the entire reason we use deviantart is for that purpose. Everything put up on deviantart is put up to be reproduced. I'm sorry if you didn't know that." My FAQ research, however, concluded thus:
- "I just wanted you guys to know that I scoured the dA FAQ for a response to the audacious claim made by Jason Moore of Pyzam.com that dA actually is made for rippers to come and take our work. The devil quoted scripture and of course did so out of context and got it grievously incorrect. Here is clarification for anyone who is now worried about dA--don't be! Ownership and Copyrights The Submission Agreement explicitly states that you, as the original artist, retain any and all rights appropriate to your artwork at all times. These rights include, but are not limited to, the full and exclusive copyrights to your original artwork. By agreeing to the Submission Agreement what you are really doing is granting deviantART the basic permissions we need in order to display, showcase, and make your artwork available to viewers using the various on-site systems and tools. At no time do you lose ownership or any of the exclusive copyrights granted to you by law on any deviation or scrapbook submission which you make to deviantART DeviantART will not use your work for any project without first consulting you and obtaining your consent. FAQ #226: Does deviantART own my art?
Basically, dA includes this for purposes of creating thumbnails and for in-site advertising. At no time and in no place in the policy does it state that dA is here for people to reproduce or use our art.
Jason said they would no longer use further artwork of mine, but stated that: "I hope you understand that the layouts we have already used are being hosted for over 50,000 people. For us to take down those layouts would do more harm than good..." This was completely unsatisfactory to me.
So next I used certified mail (USPS) which creates proof of mailing, to contact GoDaddy.com and DomainsByProxy.com and sent them my concerns as well. The replies I received from these companies was rather unsatisfactory, as they claimed no jurisdiction over Pyzam even though they were listed as their Domain/Server companies.
At this time, I also gave Pyzam the ultimatum that if they didn't remove my work currently stolen work, I would inform GoogleAdSense of their activities, and also other companies whose registered trademarks they were ripping, including Gucci, Budweiser and Abercrombie and Fitch. Apparently this did the trick, because within hours of that communication Pyzam removed my layouts.
What I learned from my experience is that being nice doesn't always get the results you're looking for, but persistence does. And I also learned that regardless of how great or how humble your art is, if it's available online there is a chance it will be stolen. I also realized about myself that even though I still wasn't sure my art was spectacular, I loved it and wanted to defend it. I learned that professionalism is always the way to go, because if anything actually ended up in a court of law, my behavior would be almost certainly held up to scrutiny, and found to be without reproach.
Lastly, I learned that dA is a community of individuals that is willing to help individuals. Many deviants pointed me in the direction of helpful articles online, and more offered support and kind (or vengeful on my behalf) words. Obviously the dA staff takes care of on-site art thieves, but because of legal ramifications and time/staffing issues, they cannot take on the off-site rippers. And they shouldn't have to. We can protect our own work, try and prevent thieving, and work to take down art rippers after the fact. We can stand together as deviants against art thieves, by supporting each other, pooling knowledge, forming clubs against art thieves, researching legal methods, and finding rips off-site. It isn't hopeless, and while we cannot expect ripping to never happen, we can do something about it when it does.
The end result with Pyzam.com was that they changed their policies regarding how they get their art for layouts, and tightened up their privacy policies and are now in compliance with the DMCA.
Some things to remember:
Regardless of the quality of your art, if it is online, there will always be the possibility of it being stolen.
Having your art stolen is not a form of flattery and you should not be forced to view it as such. Theft is theft and you never have to feel okay about it if your art is stolen.
dA staff takes care of dA rippers, but we as individuals and a community need to take care of the off-site rippers.
You are not alone and helpless. Your art is copyrighted the moment you make it, regardless of medium. If you do not register your copyright, but your art is online, you fall under the jurisdiction of the DMCA, or the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMCA If you do register your copyright, you may prosecute legally in a court of law. Either way, you have protections.
You do not have to be a US resident to register your copyright in the US. There are many countries with an agreement with the US allowing their residents to legally register copyrights in the US.
Although watermarking in a prominent manner is ugly and people don't like it, it is ultimately up to you how you protect your work. Don't let other's opinions dictate how you go about it. If you want a big old watermark across the middle, then do it! dA provides one or you can make your own. If you don't want an obtrusive one, at least consider using a covert one. Personally, I use bump mapping and put it in a place that will hopefully be overlooked; if the theif doesn't see it, but I can prove it's there, so much the better. There are many effective ways to do it, so pick something that works for you.
If you are victim of a rip, keep good documentation and records.
One effective way to react to an art rip is to identify the source of the rip and contact the offending party directly. Use Whois.net to discover the website's hosters/servers, look for links/tabs marked "legal" or "policy" to find out how those websites want you to contact them and what their policies on illegal content are. Remember to get your mail certified or insured if you have to use paper mail, so that you can prove you sent it even if it gets lost in the postal service. Maintain a professional manner and keep records of your correspondence.
The thieves may not be selling your work, but if your work is drawing customers or viewers to their site, they could be still making money off you through ad clicks. Get the ripper in the wallet by contacting their ad company. Google especially has a no-tolerance policy on content rippers and will be willing to help out.
Lastly, fortify the protection on your work and know ahead of time your rights regarding your work.
I hope this information has been helpful to you. If you know of other effective ways to deal with art rippers, feel free to give that information to groups like RippedArtTaskForce so they can spread the education to other deviants. Also, please consider supporting your fellow artists when you can against these off-site rippers. They are many and they are rampant, but we can prevail if we stick together and work calmly and professionally.
Finally, remember that much of this is my opinion and is just the way I handled it; I am not claiming it is the best or only way to deal. I also must disclaim that nothing in this article is guaranteed to work a second time; try not to get mad at me if my methods end up being ineffective for you. This article is meant for informational purposes only.
FAQ #226: Does deviantART own my art?
Wikipedia's Explanation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act
A very useful watermark/bump-mapping tutorial
The Ultimate Tutorial 2.0 A very helpful article on what is and isn't art theft by snapesgirl34
What to do when someone steals your content by Lorell Van Fossen, a helpful blog article.
Official US Copyright Office Website